Welcome to the Algarve town I chose to call home for 4 years-Lagos.
Lagos may be framed by holiday apartment high rises but its charming town centre is a jumble of white houses with typical orange roofs, narrow streets, a 15th century church and a laid back vibe.
With an impressive number of golden beaches, stunning rock formations, a colourful historical centre and an excellent variety of restaurants + bars you can see why Lagos has a lot to shout about. Here is our complete local travel guide on Lagos, Portugal.
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Lagos is situated mid way along the southern coast of Portugal, in the sunniest region – the Algarve. At only an hours drive from Faro’s international airport (which is flies to most major UK and European airports) Lagos is an ideal get away year round.
Flights are available to Faro daily from from most major airports in the UK + across Europe. The most common airlines servicing this destination are Ryanair and Easy Jet.
We recommend booking flights via Skyscanner for the best prices + flexibility.
Although Lagos can be easily explored without a car we would recommend picking up a hire car from the airport for your trip. This way you miss out on lengthy transfers and have the option to explore further afield while you are there. Car hire in Portugal may seem overwhelming but it doesn’t have to be. Always check conditions and book in advance.
There are no shortage of car hire companies but I’ve always had a great experience using Zest.
Lagos can be reached by train from both Faro (1.5 hrs) and Lisbon (3.5hrs via Tunes). The first class tickets from Lisbon are particularly good value for money.
Tickets can be booked at stations and in advance from Comboios de Portugal. Discounted rates are usually available when you book 2 or more weeks in advance.
WHERE TO STAY
Lagos has accommodation to suit most needs. Boutique hotels, apartments, villas, hostels, kid friendly options and even camping, we have found all options are catered for on booking.com. ‘
Marina Park – Spacious, well-equipped 1, 2 and 3 bedroom apartments with balconies, parking, onsite bar and a swimming pool. Located at the top of a hill but only 5 minutes walking distance to Lagos Marina and 15 minutes to Meia Praia. Great for families. We lived here for 7 months when we first moved to Lagos.
Casa Mae – ‘More than a hotel’. A gorgeous boutique ‘holiday casa’ located in the centre of Lagos with stylish boho rooms, a pretty pool and an organic veggie garden used in their impressive menu on the onsite restaurant.
Booking.com – Without a doubt my favourite accommodation finder and one of my most visited websites. Search for boutique hotels, arty apartments, beach resorts and everything in-between. There are tonnes of great value Lagos accommodation options to explore. Prices often rise last minute so try and book up as soon as you can. Of course, if you are able to book directly with smaller businesses please consider this.
If you enjoy experience based travel READ OUR SLOW TRAVEL GUIDE
Behold…. the best pastel de nata in Lagos, possibly the Algarve! If we have dedicated time to anything over the last two years it has been eating these. Typical Portuguese tarts can be found anywhere and everywhere in Lagos but don’t just grab one from any old shop when tart heaven is within your reach.
Visit Pão d’Avó Maria (just behind the main bus station) for the best pastel de nata we have sampled in the Algarve (trust me, we have sampled a lot). They are best eaten in the morning, on the spot when they are fresh and still slightly warm. As tempting as it is to stock up on these for later (or to take a box home) they have usually lost their magic by the afternoon which is part of the reason why they are so special.
Lagos has no shortage of places to lay your beach towel. From hidden coves like Praia dos Estudantes to 5km stretches like Meia Praia you’ll find a beach to keep even the fussiest beach-goer happy. If you haven’t got time to explore them all here’s our top three to take a look at.
Praia da Batata – Walking distance from the middle of Lagos, pretty caves and a few secret beaches to explore. Several activities including kayaking and SUP tours.
- Praia do Camilo – Immeasurably picturesque with ocean views that give Thailand a run for its money. Difficult to access due to its steep steps. If you are visiting in season get there early to nab a spot and prepare yourself for crowds.
- Porto de Mós – Long beach backed by beautiful cliffs. Plenty of parking, restaurants and activities. (pictured below)
Although Lagos’ ‘main strip’ has a lively atmosphere and an abundance of places to eat; generally speaking we have found that the really special places sit just outside of this main tourist area. For a greater variety of options and better value take a wander a few streets back from the buzz and look for the unassuming spots.
T Y P I C A L P O R T U G U E S E
Adega Típica A Forja (the blue door restaurant) – also featured in the Lonely Planet so booking in advance is recommended
Casa do Zé – Tasty dishes such as Portuguese fried pork which can be washed down with a jug of vinho tinto. Located on a busy corner with great atmosphere and super friendly staff.
Cervejaria Ferradura – this local favourite serves up delicious bar snacks. Try the camarão alho (garlic pawns) or chouriço assado (grilled chorizo).
Tasca de Lota – When we said unassuming this is exactly what we meant. This canteen style restaurant serves up a fresh fish and BBQ’s it in front of you. Nothing fancy to see here, just good, honest, fresh food. Located at the back of the marina next to the boat yard.
Casa Chico Zé – Without out a doubt, my favourite restaurant in Lagos. It is actually situated just outside of Lagos, in Torre, but at only a 5 minute drive away this Portuguese BBQ restaurant is a foodie experience not to miss. Popular with both locals and tourists in the know, Chico Zé is a well-established lunch only restaurant (open 12-3pm). At Chico Zé fish is king – try the BBQ sardines or whole Dourada and a carafe of vinho verde (local wine made from young grapes). If fish isn’t your thing the mixed kebab and piri piri chicken is also very good. It is not uncommon to have to wait 20minutes plus for a table so if you’re not a fan of queueing aim to arrive for opening at midday.
Top Tip: Most restaurants will bring couvert (bread, olives, cheese etc) to your table on arrival. Unless it is included as part of a prato de dia (plate of the day) menu you get charged for what you eat. Usually this is very reasonably priced and a lovely addition to your meal.
O T H E R C U I S I N E S
Mullens – Simple decor, a wonderful atmosphere and the best steak in town.
Green Room – All your favourite Mexican dishes made from fresh ingredients (try the fish tacos). Also home to an extensive tequila menu.
Gorilla – Alfresco dining for lunch or dinner. A tasty range of Asian dishes such as dumplings and Pad Thai.
Its no secret that typical Portuguese cuisine isn’t vegetarian or vegan friendly (even the green vegetable soup has chorizo in it) so it can be difficult to find local style restaurants that cater for vegetarians and vegans. The Portuguese are generally very friendly so don’t be afraid to ask if they can edit a dish for you.
There are still plenty of vegetarian and vegan options in town though, Why not try vegan toast makers Cafe Goldig for breakfast, Goji Lounge for an alfresco lunch, Beats + Burritos for veggie and vegan friendly Mexican (meat options too!) or La Estrella for a tasty dinner.
Finding speciality coffee in the Algarve is tricky. Luckily two out of the three speciality coffee shops in the region can be found in Lagos. The good news is there is no shortage of spots to grab a decent brunch. If you want to eat as the locals do pick a little snack bar away from the main square and order ‘torrada’ (toast and butter) or a ‘tosta mista’ (ham and cheese toastie) with a ‘bica’ (espresso).
Coffee + Waves – Excellent speciality coffee, acaí bowls, tasty snacks and all the chilled out vibes Our favourite for a relaxed atmosphere and an early morning coffee. Only open Thurs-Sun.
Black & White -The newest coffee shop in town. Expect excellent speciality coffee and a chilled out space.
Goji Lounge – Pancakes, smoothies and some veggie/vegan options too. Centrally based with plenty of space to enjoy your brekkie alfresco.
Abigail’s Cafe – Coffee, smoothie bowls and croissants with both indoor and outdoor seating. Outdoors features great views of the Santa Maria church.
Padaria Central – Grabbing breakfast on the go? Head to this photogenic bakery in the middle of town and stock up on sweet + savoury treats for the day.
Orta Restaurant (Casa Mãe) – The best speciality coffee I have had in the Algarve! Not only is it one of the prettiest boutique hotels in Lagos but it also boasts a cracking brunch menu including the the best speciality coffee in the Algarve. The best part is you don’t have to stay here to dine here. Order ‘The Epicurean’ and arrive hungry!
Again, Lagos is not shy when it comes to bars. There is everything from local dark dens, to rooftop hangouts to delicious cocktail and wine bars.
Top Tip: When visiting the local bars have a look at their petisco (Portuguese tapas) menu and you’ll find anything from sheep’s cheese to flaming chorizo.
C E N T R A L
2 irmãos – enjoy a lunch time beer and couvert (the garlicky carrots are delicious) with views of The Santa Maria church.
Esquina do Fado – an exception to the touristy centre rule. The ‘Fado Corner’ is right in the middle of it all but hosts a fantastic jug of the sweet, cold stuff (sangria) and delicious tapas (try the goats cheese in port with almonds).
Cervejaria Ferradura – take a road back from the main strip and find this yellow bar on the corner of Rua da Laranjeira for a great Portuguese drinking experience. There is tables outside but for a more authentic experience sit at the bar and order uma cerveja e uma bifana (beer and thin pork roll). May as well try to local tipple, Port, while you’re here too!
Mar d’Estórias – If you could pick only one bar for a cocktail while you’re in town make it Mar d’Estórias. This interesting building features a shop, cafe and restaurant but the biggest draw for me is the cosy but open rooftop terrace. The terrace offers a range of drinks including a small cocktail menu, each with a Portuguese twist. Without a doubt the biggest reason to visit is the stunning views over the old town, red top roofs and most prominently the Santo António Church.
Bon Vivant – a pretty typical bar found pretty much smack bang in the middle of main strip but this one has a rooftop bar overlooking the pretty Portuguese rooftops and has a fun vibe at sunset!
Green Room – mentioned again because the cocktails here really are some of the best in Lagos. If you’re not sure what to go for you can trust the bar staff to sort you out. We recommend the Mezcalinho
O N T H E M A R I N A
The Quay – This bar/bistro is one of the more pricier spots on the marina but if you can grab one of the outside chairs at the front in time for sunset you’ll be in for a treat!
Lazy Jacks – Also located on the Marina with plenty of outside seating for that sunset. Lively atmosphere with great live music on a Sunday afternoon.
O N T H E B E A C H
We couldn’t leave you without a couple of beachside thirst quenchers so try grabbing a beer from some of our favourite beach bars Por do sol or Linda’s on Meia Praia. If you are looking for a beach bar close to town try Cafe do Mar at Praia da Batata with stunning cliff edge views.
MONEY: Although some bar, restaurants and shops do take card many of the smaller places do not so carrying a combination of cards and cash is best.
I always travel with WISE. Wise is a prepaid card and app that you can hold and transfer multiple currencies on. Simply top up using the app and transfer between currencies whenever you like. I have been using Transferwise since we moving to Portugal in 2016 and I have saved hundreds of pounds compared to using my UK bank account.
TIME ZONE: GMT+0 (same as UK)
LANGUAGE: European Portuguese
Lagos is a popular destination for British holidaymakers (and many other nationalities) so many bars and restaurants have staff that can speak good English. Having said that there are also many smaller, local bars that do not. If you do take a day trip to one of the less touristy towns and villages in the Algarve don’t expect them to speak to you in English. Most Portuguese (as any nationality) will appreciate you making a small effort when it comes to learning their language so even if it is a simple bom dia (good morning!) you should try you best while you are visiting beautiful Portugal.
Here is some very basic phrases and words to start with…
Chicken with piri piri Frango piri piri
Water sparkling/still Agua com gas/sem gas
Red wine Vinho tinto
White wine Vinho branco
Green wine Vinho verde
Do you have? Você tem?
I speak a little Portuguese
Eu falo/a um pouco de Português
Take our guide on board when visiting lovely Lagos but don’t forget to carve your own path too, there are tonnes of places waiting to be discovered.
Hopefully this guide has given you a real feel for Lagos and you’re ready to start planning your trip. Don’t forget to book up your accommodation!